By Angela Underwood
An unbiased, statewide recreational marijuana listening tour that began in February and ended in May, with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman making 70 stops in 93 days, confirmed what officials thought all along—Pennsylvanians want to legalize pot.
“I can’t think of another state that went to these lengths to have this conversation, and I can’t remember the last time when any public policy debate received such an in-depth conversation at that level,” Fetterman told the New York Daily Weed Report.
Why the tour?
“The governor believed it was a conversation we needed to have in Pennsylvania and what better way to find out what people really think, because it’s not just a simple yes or no,” Fetterman said, adding opinion and nuance were also factors. “We did it in a way where we tried to engage everyone.”
Fetterman said the 67-county tour collectively had more than 10,000 residents attend meetings and 40,000 citizens post comments online.
“And there were countless media posts,” he added.
There are 11 Key takeaways in the 89-page report, with the most important being the bulk percentage of Pennsylvanians support legalization.
“I would want it to be safe, legal, tested, and taxed and grown on Pennsylvania farms for Pennsylvania jobs that create Pennsylvania revenue, that is what I heard,” Fetterman said.
Furthermore, Fetterman said he has to remind people it’s “a true minority viewpoint” to support cannabis prohibition in Pennsylvania.
“It used to be a wacky, stoner ‘free the weed’ issue, but now that is the majority opinion in Pennsylvania,” he said, adding he found residents’ change of attitude on medical marijuana interesting. “It was a heavy lift to get it through, and in two short years it went from controversial to universally loved.”
While working to legalize cannabis for adult-use in the state, Fetterman said officials are also seeking to expunge some marijuana-related criminal charges.
“Of course, expungement through legislation would be the ideal, but in the absence of that we can do it through pardons,” he said. “It’s not efficient, but it’s a guaranteed way for us to move forward in that direction until we get the legislation.”
Fetterman finds it disturbing that cannabis charges are keeping otherwise law-abiding citizens from moving forward in life.
“Why would we want something like this to stop someone from getting a student loan, or getting better housing, or volunteering at their children’s activities at school,” Fetterman asked. “For something that is legal and readily available in 11 or 12 states it just doesn’t make any sense.”
The next steps towards legalizing cannabis include building as much consensus as possible, according to the lieutenant governor.
“We want to continue full steam ahead with the pardons expediating process to get as many people freed from that,” he said. “We want to continue to refine our medical program and make sure it is effective and user-friendly as we can.”
And they have.
“We just added two more medical conditions including anxiety and Tourette’s to the protocol, which we heard about on the tour,” Fetterman said.
He also heard residents say officials should just place the measure on the ballot.
“But in Pennsylvania that is not constitutional,” Fetterman said. “We don’t have that mechanism here, so this is the next best way.”
Bottom-line, legalizing cannabis is a jobs bill, according to Fetterman, who said that’s exactly what he tells conservatives.
“People need to move past this,” he said. “CBD was legalized, and the world did not spin off its axis.”
“Cannabis prohibition has already caused enough damage, and we in Pennsylvania are taking the necessary steps to begin to change that conversation,” Fetterman added.
He said officials will look at all the states that have legalized cannabis for adult-use when creating policy.
“These states have lessons to be learned,” he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”